UPPER ST. CLAIR – Hunter Robinson took a no-hitter into the fifth inning for the No. 5-seeded Waynesburg Raiders against the No. 12-seed South Side Beaver Rams. He allowed only two hits over six innings: a seeing-eye groundball single in the fifth and an infield hit in the sixth.
But the Raiders found themselves down 3-0 after the first inning, thanks to a walk, three infield errors and a passed ball that allowed three unearned runs to score. That was all South Side Beaver needed, as the Rams went on to win the first round WPIAL Class AAA playoff game 4-1.
“We’ve talked about it all year. You have to make the routine plays,” Waynesburg head coach Scott VanSickle said. “They didn’t even hit a ball hard all game. A nubber to second, we drop it. Little short roller up to second base, he doesn’t even throw it right. Big hopper to short, all he has to do is catch it and throw it. Little things like that have gotten us all year.”
The Rams will go on to face No. 4-seed Brownsville in the second round of the playoffs, and VanSickle thinks Brownsville will play the way his team should have today.
“Brownsville will blow that team out,” VanSickle said. “Brownsville will make all the routine plays, and they’ll dominate them … because we should have.”
South Side Beaver head coach Chip Hunter said he knew beating the Raiders with Robinson on the mound wouldn’t be easy, but he said his team did what was necessary to win.
“We knew we had to battle and put the ball in play and put the pressure on them,” Hunter said. “We were able to do that early on and near the end of the game.”
While Robinson deserved a better result, it was the opposing pitcher who stole the show.
Junior Casey Jones threw a gem for the Rams, allowing only three hits and one run in a complete-game victory. Jones walked two batters and fanned six.
“He was able to establish his pitches, (and) he had very good command,” Hunter said. “We play in a very difficult section, so he kind of gets overlooked a lot of times. But he’s a competitor and he goes out and throws his pitches. He was able to throw all his pitches with command today and work ahead in counts.”
Jones said the early run support helped him be more aggressive on the mound.
“It helped me because I knew I could go after the kids instead of making perfect pitches, because they needed to hit the ball with us up three runs there,” Jones said.
Jones threw only two different pitches in the game, fastball and curveball. But Jones worked a quick pace and mixed the two pitches, with armside run on the fastball and big break on the curve, to keep the Raider hitters off balanced.
“I just (wanted) to come in and throw strikes and to challenge them,” Jones said. “We were the underdogs, so there was really no pressure on us.”
Despite his performance, VanSickle thought his hitters shouldn’t have been mystified by Jones.
“We can’t win when Hunter (Robinson) is 0-for-3, Luke (Robinson) is 0-for-2 with a walk and Trey (Rohanna) hits a seventh-inning home run, but he’s 0-for-2 before that. Those are our three guns,” VanSickle said.
After the first-inning runs by sophomore Nate Statler, sophomore Jake McDougal and junior Bishop McCoy, the Raiders had chances to score in the second and third innings.
Second baseman Luke Robinson walked with one out in the second, but he was thrown out trying to steal by Statler. Later in that at-bat, sophomore infielder Kyle Blasco ripped a triple down the right field line that would have likely scored Luke Robinson from first if he had not been thrown out trying to steal second. The next hitter for the Raiders grounded out to shortstop, ending the scoring threat in the inning.
In the third inning, senior centerfielder Ryan Braun walked with one out, and junior designated hitter Brandon Turcheck, who is normally the starting catcher but an elbow injury has since moved him to the DH spot, doubled off the chalk down the left field foul line.
VanSickle tried to send Braun home and stop Turcheck at second base, but Braun mistakenly saw VanSickle’s stop sign for Turcheck as a stop sign for himself, and he returned the third base rather than scoring easily.
VanSickle gave the next batter the safety squeeze sign three times, with the last time ending in a strike three, as the batter couldn’t get the bat on Jones’ low-and-away curveball.
Hunter Robinson then grounded out to second base to end the inning, leaving both Braun and Turcheck in scoring position.
“I’m sending the runner, and I’m stopping him at second base. That killed momentum,” VanSickle said. “And then Hunter didn’t get a hit there, and that’s when we needed something. It just wasn’t our day.”
The Rams got back on the board in the sixth inning, increasing their lead to 4-0. McDougal reached on an infield hit, stole second, advanced to third on a fly ball to right field and scored on a suicide squeeze bunt by senior second baseman Jared Conti. Conti’s squeeze was South Side Beaver’s only RBI of the game.
Hunter Robinson, who is committed to California University of Pennsylvania as both a pitcher and an outfielder, gave up four runs, one earned, and two hits in six innings while striking out eight and walking three. His younger brother, Luke, came in after and threw a scoreless seventh for the Raiders.
The only chink in Jones’ armor came on the first pitch of the seventh inning when junior shortstop Trey Rohanna ripped an inside fastball over the left field fence for a solo home run.
Jones retired the next three batters in order to send the Rams to the second round of the Class AAA WPIAL playoffs.
Hunter said Jones will be available to pitch in that game, as South Side Beaver will take on Brownsville, the No. 4 seed, Monday, May 22, at Peterswood Park. First pitch is set for 7 p.m.